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A Short History of the Rettich Preserve Concerts


The Rettich Preserve is simply one of the most beautiful spots along the shoreline of Connecticut. Owned by the Madison Land Conservation trust and maintained by a bunch of dedicated volunteers, it was bequeathed to the Trust by Fred and Rosa Rettich upon Fred's passing. It's not large, but its setting right along the Hammonasset River is perfection. Ospreys circle, the occasional bald eagle relaxes in the trees overhanging the river, bobcats, fox and coyotes all pass through. Originally, the property was filled with ramshackle outbuildings and the stored debris (well, trash) accumulated over several generations. The Trust undertook a massive, and costly, cleanup effort to put the preserve in its present condition. Several outbuildings were saved as they were considered important to the history and overall aesthetic of the property.



(Photos above by Matt Callan) It was incredible effort by all the volunteers at the all-volunteer land trust to get the property put together.


Meanwhile, Stephanie Lesnik, owner and operator of Field House Farm in Madison, and had become friends of the Rettiches before their passing, was serving up brilliant farm dinners at the farm, using exceptional local chefs to prepare food from the farm harvested that day, and from livestock raised on the farm. She thought that perhaps a less-formal dinner, with people bringing lawn chairs and enjoying some music, held in the backyard of the farm would be a fun idea. So, she contact Fire In The Kitchen Concerts (me) as she had been to a few shows and we had many common friends, to help source cool, fresh and equally organic acoustic music for the entertainment. I had contacts at Berklee, and using those, we got two young trios from the college, for two separate shows. One was with Emily baker and her trio (that worked as an experiment, and brought forward a few necessary improvements) and the second was with Sumaia Jackson, a brilliant fiddler, with her trio. I didn't know it at the time, but the seeds were planted.


The next season, Stephanie approached Leslie Sude, the Land Trust board member in charge of the Rettich Preserve, about her hosting a dinner at the preserve to raise funds for the maintenance costs, and that it would hopefully include live music.


Stephanie Lesnik, center, Leslie Sude, right, and my shoulder, left. Stephanie laughing at my incompetence at taking a selfie.


They approached me, and that was that. Stephanie brought her team down to the preserve, I once again tapped my well of Berklee faculty contacts (thanks Berklee College) and it was off to the races. The rest is simply a chronological display of the many bands we've had down at the preserve, in what has become a yearly highlight for music fans and open space preservationists. The videos following the pictures are not from the Preserve shows, those are all low-quality cell phone videos and not too flattering...


Year One (2017...I think...at least according to date stamps on photos): Low Lily






The second year, we had Berklee students that had a duo, but also brought a friend, Ethan Hawkins, with them. Ethan will be back in 2023 with his new band. So here's The Page Turners:




Next Up: 2019, Pretty Sara, another superb young Berklee band:




Then...the covid years. We did two shows, one in a Land trust members backyard, one at another land trust property. While both followed the guidelines of the time, we were worried about the sight of lots of people at the preserve, even if we were following protocols. They are both covered in detail in these spotlights. First was with The Ruta beggars, the second with Damn Tall Buildings.




On to 2021, and we felt we had to make up for a little lost time, so we did two. The first was Pumpkin Bread Band, featuring the exquisite Maura Shawn Scanlin on fiddle and Conor Hearn on guitar, with both singing. They now have a duo, Rakish, that we had perform at an old grange hall in Weston.




Also part of the double-header, appearing later in the fall, were good friends Mr. Sun. Headed by the revolutionary Darol Anger, of David Grisman Quintet, Turtle Island Quartet, and a thousand other ground-breaking projects, and joined by Berklee faculty member Joe K. Walsh and guitarist Grant Gordy, Aiden Peterson on bass.





Finally to 2022, with Damn Tall Buildings. I can't say enough about them. That's all I can say.




We hope to see you all in 2023, Labor day weekend, September 2!




The Food: It started with Stephanie Lesnik's Field House Farm crew, with chef David Borselle, and all ingredients came from the farm. Covid hit, and there was one show where the North Madison Congregational Church came down with grills for burgers and dogs. After that, it was tough to mount the big effort of Field House Farm, so it was all about Matt and Kristen's pizza truck.





There were plenty of side events also, with painting demonstrations by the Madison Art Society, bee keeping, tractor exhibits, and guided talks about trees and birds.


















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